What is the BBIN Agreement?
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) had signed a framework MVA in June 2015 to enable movement of passenger and cargo vehicles across borders among the four countries. Bhutan has not yet ratified the pact for its entry to come into force. However, Bhutan had given its consent for the BBIN Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) to enter into force amongst the other 3 countries i.e. Bangladesh, India and Nepal, who have already ratified it.
What is BBIN MVA?
The landmark MVA was signed by Transport Ministers of the BBIN countries in Thimphu, Bhutan on 15 June 2015. As per the agreement, member countries would allow vehicles registered in the other countries to enter their territory under certain terms and conditions. Customs and tariffs will be decided by the respective countries and these would be finalised at bilateral and trilateral forums.
- The Union Cabinet had approved a proposal to sign the SAARC MVA during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014. Unfortunately, it could not be signed due to reservations of Pakistan.
- The SAARC declaration at the Kathmandu Summit in November 2014 also encouraged Member States to initiate regional and sub-regional measures to enhance connectivity.
- Accordingly, it was considered appropriate that a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal ie. BBIN MVA may be pursued.
- About BBIN MVA: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal have signed a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) in June 2015 for regulation of passenger, personnel and cargo vehicular traffic between the four BBIN countries.
- As per the agreement, member countries would allow vehicles registered in the other countries to enter their territory under certain terms and conditions.
- Customs and tariffs will be decided by the respective countries and these would be finalised at bilateral and trilateral forums.
- Objective: The main objective of the agreement is to provide seamless people-to-people contact and enhance economic interaction by facilitating cross border movement of people and goods.
- Right from the time the BBIN MVA was tabled for ratification, the draft legislation faced opposition in Bhutan. There have been fears of vehicular pollution and environmental degradation if trucks from neighbouring countries are given access to Bhutan.
- A trial run of cargo transport between Kolkata and Agartala through Dhaka, reducing the distance by nearly two-thirds, was flagged as part of the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) sub-regional initiative for uninterrupted cargo movement.
Benefits of this agreement
It would permit unhindered movement of passenger and cargo vehicles among the four countries. Cargo vehicles do not have to be changed at the border, a practice that has prevailed until now. The BBIN agreement will promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region and will further help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration.
Challenges to the project
- Bhutan’s environmental concerns due to the movement of passenger and cargo vehicles.
- Travel restrictions at the border and lack of infrastructure at the borders.
- Construction of inland Container Depots (ICDs) at vantage locations can avoid loading and unloading at the roads.
- The BBIN MVA should be aligned with the TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers) Convention of the International Road Transport Union. It will help in streamlining cargo movement by decreasing the physical verification and paper works.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has been providing technical, advisory, and financial support to the BBIN MVA initiative as part of its assistance to the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program, a projects-based economic cooperation initiative that brings together the BBIN countries, Maldives, Sri Lanka and more recently, Myanmar. ADB is the secretariat of SASEC.
Organisations like these help create a peaceful and cooperative environment among the neighbouring countries. Just like the government gives assurance of smooth and impactful development in the one country, these organisations aim at development at the global level.
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